Image: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Atta Kenare  /  AFP - Getty Images
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, flanked by bodyguards, waves to supporters before addressing tens of thousands of Iranians gathered in Azadi Square in southwestern Tehran to mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, on Thursday.
updated 2/11/2010 2:15:16 PM ET 2010-02-11T19:15:16

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed Thursday that Iran has produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level, saying his country will not be bullied by the West into curtailing its nuclear program a day after the U.S. imposed new sanctions.

Ahmadinejad reiterated to hundreds of thousands of cheering Iranians on the anniversary of the 1979 foundation of the Islamic republic that the country was now a "nuclear state," an announcement he's made before. He insisted that Iran had no intention of building nuclear weapons.

It was not clear how much enriched material had actually been produced just two days after the process was announced to have started.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed Iran's claims, saying that country's leadership has made a series of statement based on politics, not physics.

The claim of new progress in Iran's nuclear program came a day after the U.S. Treasury Department imposed new sanctions, freezing the assets in U.S. jurisdiction of a Revolutionary Guard general and four subsidiaries of a construction firm he runs.

David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said that any 20-percent enriched uranium produced just a few days after the start of the process would be "a tiny amount."

The United States and some of its allies accuse Tehran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to build nuclear weapons but Tehran denies the charge, saying the program is just geared toward generating electricity.

"I want to announce with a loud voice here that the first package of 20 percent fuel was produced and provided to the scientists," he said.

Enriching uranium produces fuel for nuclear power plants but can also be used to create material for atomic weapons if enriched further to 90 percent or more.

"We have the capability to enrich uranium more than 20 percent or 80 percent but we don't enrich (to this level) because we don't need it," he said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

Iran announced Tuesday it was beginning the process of enriching its uranium stockpile to a higher level. The international community reacted by discussing the imposition of new U.N. sanctions.

Video: Iran says they've gone nuclear

Revolutionary Guard assets frozen
The U.S. Treasury Department went ahead on Wednesday and froze the assets in U.S. jurisdictions of a Revolutionary Guard general and four subsidiaries of a construction firm he runs for their alleged involvement in producing and spreading weapons of mass destruction.

Tehran has said it wants to further enrich the uranium — which is still substantially below the 90 percent plus level used in the fissile core of nuclear warheads — as a part of a plan to fuel its research reactor that provides medical isotopes to hundreds of thousands of Iranians undergoing cancer treatment.

But the West says Tehran is not capable of turning the material into the fuel rods needed by the reactor. Instead it fears that Iran wants to enrich the uranium to make nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad restated Iran's position that it was not seeking to build nuclear weapons.

"When we say we do not manufacture the bomb, we mean it, and we do not believe in manufacturing a bomb," he told the crowd. "If we wanted to manufacture a bomb, we would announce it."

"We told them the Iranian nation will never give in to bullying and illogical remarks," Ahmadinejad added.

Western powers blame Tehran for rejecting an internationally endorsed plan to defuse the situation by having Iran export its low enriched uranium for enrichment abroad and returned as fuel rods for the Tehran reactor.

Iran's nuclear networkIran, in turn, asserts it had no choice but to start enriching to higher levels because its suggested changes to the international plan were rejected.

The president said Iran will triple the production of its low-enriched uranium in the future but didn't elaborate.

"God willing, daily production (of low enriched uranium) will be tripled," he said.

A confidential document from the U.N. nuclear agency shared Wednesday with The Associated Press said Iran's initial effort at higher enrichment is modest, using only a small amount of feedstock and a fraction of its capacities.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Iran protests quelled by security crackdown

  1. Closed captioning of: Iran protests quelled by security crackdown

    >> story live tonight.

    >>> now, overseas to iran . on this anniversary of the islamic revolution , many fear, as you may know, this was going to be a day of serious new confrontations in the streets. in fact, the ruling regime there did send forces into the streets and sent a new message to the west, we have been watching this all day long very closely. we are joined tonight by our chief foreign correspondent richard engel in our london newsroom. richard, xwechk.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. while there were some clashes today, iran effectively cracked down and proved it still controls the streets. surrounded by cheering supporters, president mahmoud ahmadinejad today bragged of new advances in iran 's nuclear program. "we have the capacity," he said," to enrich uranium more than 20% or 80%, but we won't because we don't need it." 90% is considered concentrated enough to make a weapon. u.s. officials suspect the claim may be exaggerated for domestic consumption on today's highly-managed show of national pride . big enough to be seen from miles above. and which was at times theatrical, complete with three efagies of the rim reaper, one for the united states , britain and israel. the few fornl journalists in iran , including ali arouzi were restricted.

    >> reporter: this year the event has been very carefully staged. we are penned into a certain area and not allow to talk to pro government supporters. buses brought us in and brought us out. this doesn't reflect the bigger picture of what's going on in the city.

    >> reporter: that picture was filled in yet again by cell phone videos. there is now an efficient distribution network for the undercover videos. some run from los angeles by the large, mostly anti-government iranian community. today's videos showed protestors cheering opposition leaders. and more controversially, tearing down a poster of iran's supreme leader and trampling it. but the protests were small. just a few hundred turned out. and they were quickly overwhelmed by security forces . thousands of them, with batons, tear gas and colored smoke .

    >> i think it's going to be disappointing for some, certainly disappointing for people who are wishing for a revolution to take form today.

    >> reporter: u.s. intelligence officials say today's crackdown was a setback for the opposition in iran , and could cause it to lose momentum. brian.

    >> richard, thanks for your reporting. richard engel in our london newsroom. thanks.


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